The trip to St. Louis was a heady mixture of highs and lows. I want to record them because I might need a little reminding if we try to go again next year.
The actual farm was amazing. The quarry lake was incredibly beautiful, and the water was perfect. The house was gorgeous, and so big (8,400 sq ft!–you could fit the living space of my house in it SEVEN TIMES!) that even with over 20 people there it never felt crowded. The little pool was a fun alternative to the quarry, and the creeks were great escapes to explore.
There is a ton of fun stuff to do in St. Louis, and a lot of is free (or cheap). We hit up the Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, the City Museum, the Science Center and this incredible neighborhood pool that has two water slides and a great kid’s water area.
On the days when it wasn’t raining the weather was really beautiful. My kids are born and raised in San Francisco where it is cool and dry all year long; anything over 80* feels stifling to them. We went out on the last day and with the humidity the “real feel” was well into the high 90’s and they were wilting just two steps out the front door. They really would have struggled if it had been that hot the whole time (which it was for the two weeks before we got there).
It was great to see my aunts, uncles and cousins for such an extended period. We were even in town when my oldest cousin’s third son was born–a much hoped for little boy (after two girls). It was exciting to meet him only days after his arrival.
I was able to get my five runs in with no problem, and I really appreciate that time away from my kids. Most of the runs weren’t even that hot and I only had to run in the rain once.
“The cousins”–my kids and my cousin’s kids–got along amazingly well. My daughter and her cousin B are the same age and have already spent other summers playing together really well, but you never know how a year (and a lot of growing up) will change the dynamic. The two girls were immediately best of friends again and didn’t have any issues until the very last day of the trip (and they were minor). My son was only 6 months old the last time we were in St. Louis (and he’s only two so he doesn’t really play with his “friends” much anyway) so I wasn’t sure if the boys were going to play much together. To my surprise they were instant friends and actually interacted with each other animatedly the entire time. My cousin’s son is almost a year older than mine, but they really played great, which was awesome. My daughter didn’t stop “parallel playing” until she was four or five so I was really surprised by how much actual interacting they did. It was great.
It rained. And it rained. And it rained. It rained a shit ton, and it was rarely the kind of rain you could go play in. It was either light rain but too cold (mid-60’s) or warm out but a torrential down pour (with intermittent thunder and lightening to spice things up). Basically the rain kept us inside for about 2/3’s of the 10 day trip, which was hard when pretty much everything we wanted to do was outside.
Of course when we were outside there were the bugs to contend with. A family of wasps warred with us over domination of the dock at the quarry. Mosquitos attacked in droves every chance they got. Chiggers left itchy red bumps after a walk in the grass. By the time I got home every part of my body had multiple bites. I’m still scratching weeks later!
Sleeping in the same room with my two kids was seriously challenging. At my grandmother’s house there was barely room to shuffle around the beds once my son’s blow up bed was out. At the farm there was way more space for us, but the real difficulty was the nightly ritual of my kids refusing to go to sleep for 2-3 hours. Of course they never really got off California time, so we weren’t even attempting bedtime until 9pm, which meant they weren’t actually asleep until 11pm or midnight, and I missed most of the fun evening festivities. This was a huge bummer at the farm, where I could hear my cousins laughing and having a merry time while I wordlessly deposited my maniacal two year old back into his blow up bed over and over and over again. It takes me kids 2+ hours to fall asleep at home every night too, but at least at home I can just leave their room and let them mess around until sleep finally overtakes them. In St. Louis I had to stay with them for the entire excruciating 2+ hours every night, otherwise they would go through drawers and topple expensive lamps as they climbed all over everything. It was NOT FUN.
My grandmother is 90 years old and not doing well. Her dementia is pretty bad and mostly she just says the same ten things on repeat. Her house cannot comfortably accommodate my family of four, plus my parents and sister, but she would be absolutely devastated if we stayed somewhere else. She doesn’t really know how to interact with my kids and is constantly saying things to them that makes me feel frustrated or uncomfortable. We spent over half of the trip at her house and it was very stressful. I don’t think I can handle staying there again.
Being with my parents on a trip like this can be awkward. My mother says she will help but she doesn’t end up being all that helpful. She is amazing with my kids when she has them for a weekend or overnight–totally capable and unfazed–but when I’m around she doesn’t quite know how to step in and be useful. My husband was only with us for four of the ten days and he didn’t fly with us in either direction, so I was mostly on my own with my two kids for half of the trip. (To be fair, my mother did accompany me to the City Museum and the Science Center, both of which would have been impossible to navigate with two kids of such different ages and abilities, especially with how crowded both spaces were–we went on rainy days when everyone else was trying to escape the rain too–I was VERY grateful for that).
My kids are both “spirited” and “high energy” and they do best with routines and structure. Obviously there was little of either on this trip and they both responded with challenging behaviors. There was a ton of bribing, cajoling, and begging through gritted teeth. (There was also a ton of screen time, especially on the rainy days). I wondered a lot what my extended family thought. I think it was the first time my mother really got to see why I find parenting so challenging (my daughter behaves very differently at her grandparents’ houses). She had actually been giving me a hard time for putting my daughter in so many camps this summer, but at the end of the trip she came over of her own accord and whispered, “Well, now I know why you have her in so many camps, and I don’t blame you!” I will admit, I did appreciate the validation.
We really felt the loss of my aunt on this trip, as we would have spent a lot of time with her if she were still with us. My mom did spend a lot of time with her husband, who is not doing well at all (not surprisingly). It was just really hard to make space for grief and mourning on top of everything else.
So that was our trip. The take away seems to be stay a day or two less than you think you’ll want, get direct flights no matter what the costs (we had direct flights and I was SO THANKFUL), keep expectations reasonable and remember THE WEATHER MAY NOT COOPERATE. But also remember: even if that happens, it will be okay.